Finding God in the Tension

By Beth Ann Olesen

There seems to be a lot of tension recently. Tension over masks, over statues, over presidential candidates, to name a few. I’ve been wrestling with this idea of tension on a smaller, less divisive scale in my own life. Tension between work and family, between two working parents, between safety and a desire for normalcy. And, if I’m honest, there is always constant tension in my heart as I seek the Lord between His desires and the desires of my flesh.

Tension makes me uncomfortable whether it be on a national scale, in my home, or even within my own heart. The childish part of me questions: Why can’t we all just get along?

But it goes deeper than that. Tension forces us to examine, in the most raw and vulnerable of ways, our own values, beliefs, and flaws. Often we come face to face with the ugliest parts of ourselves, and that is painful.

But, as always with Jesus, there is beauty and grace to be found when all is stripped away and laid bare. Paul also struggled with this same concept. He writes in Romans, “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Romans 7:21-23). He then asks who will deliver him from this tug-of-war, and immediately answers his own question with acknowledgement in the form of gratitude: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25).

Paul sees the evidence of Christ in his tension: it produces complete dependence on God for the strength, wisdom, and courage needed that only He can provide.

We find Jesus in the tension.

This is why James urges us to consider trials of all kinds pure joy (James 1:2). The Lord reminds us of our need, and then, in His infinite love, supplies us with all that and more.

In this way, tension produces harmony. It seems contradictory, but Paul was ready for that, too: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways” (Romans 11:33). Tension reminds us of our desperate need and refocuses our eyes on what matters.

Imagine if instead of entering a place of tension with a desire to be right or to win, we prayed for all involved, ourselves included, to find Jesus. To find harmony. As Paul reminds us in his first letter to the Corinthians: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:27).

God may not answer with harmony in our country, or our communities, or even the church. At least not in the ways we might want. But I am confident that this will lead to harmony in hearts.